As the one-week ultimatum issued by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) to the federal government to inaugurate the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) expired weekend, some elders in the region under the auspices of Rural Chiefs and Development Initiative have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to dissolve the interim management committee of the NDDC and inaugurate the president’s nominees cleared and confirmed by the Senate in 2019.
The Leader of the Forum, Chief Edwin Clark, gave the ultimatum to the federal government a week ago, while addressing journalists in Abuja.
The Ijaw leader had noted that his desire was to see the best man appointed for the job, saying there was no need for the perceived power tussle.
“The two persons involved are from my state and are my children, but all I am interested in is for a board to be inaugurated for the commission. And this should be done within the next one week,” he stated.
Clark added that the inauguration of a new board for the commission was critical to enable it to realise its mandate of impacting positively on the lives of the people of the region.
In a letter to the president, the Niger-Delta chiefs described the Interim Management team set up by the Minister of Niger Delta, Senator Godswill Akpabio, as illegal and unacceptable, saying it negates the Act that establishes the commission.
The letter jointly signed by the Chairman of the group, Chief Nengi Eriwori, and Legal Adviser, Mr. Ebinyu Aderigba, made available to THISDAY, said the tenure of the previous interim management board had expired, noting that they were not unaware of the power of the president under the 1999 constitution as altered to delegate his powers to any ministry to carry out any function as contained in Section 170 of the constitution.
They argued that the Act establishing the NDDC does not contemplate interim management to take over the management of the commission.
The elders also argued: “Since the tenure of the last board elapsed by effluxion of time, it is expedient upon President Buhari to swear in a board in pursuant to the provision of the clear, sacrosanct and unambiguous of the NDDC Act.
“We make bold to say that the interim caretaker committee set up by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs is not a legal entity as same is not recognized by law. Therefore, there is no confusion in the NDDC that will warrant the setting up of an interim management committee.
“We, therefore, demand the immediate dissolution of the interim caretaker committee in the interest of peace and development of the Niger Delta Area, which we stand for as your Excellency may have been ill-advised by some self-seeking persons contrary to the spirit and the intendment of the Act setting up the Niger Delta Development Commission,” the Niger Delta’s leaders added.
Similarly, a group under the auspices of South-South Youth Initiative has also accused Akpabio of a plot to wilfully bypass the established protocol and extant rules as directed by President Buhari to inaugurate a substantive board of the commission for alleged pecuniary reasons.
In a petition dated June 10, 2021, to the Director-General, Department of State Security Service (DSS), made available to THISDAY, the group alleged that it was aware that Senator Akpabio has ‘’cooked up a new list of nominees’’ other than the ones already screened and confirmed by the Senate.
The group recounted how President Buhari had in August 2019 approved the inauguration of the board of NDDC that was “vetted by the mandatory security agencies screened and confirmed by the National Assembly.”
The group, however, warned that “any attempt by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs to replace the already screened and confirmed list will be against the spirit of understanding and agreement reached on June 3, 2021, with the youths from the region.”
To this end, it called on the Director-General of the DSS to use his good office to intervene so as to avoid unrest in the region.
The confirmed nominees for NDDC are former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Dr. Pius Odubu, Chairman; Bernard Okumagba (Delta), Managing Director; Otobong Ndem (Akwa Ibom), Executive Director of Projects; Maxwell Oko (Bayelsa), Executive Director of Finance and Administration; Jones Erue (Delta); Victor Ekhator (Edo); Nwogu N. Nwogu (Abia) and Theodore Allison (Bayelsa).
Others are Victor Antai (Akwa Ibom); Maurice Effiwat (Cross River); Olugbenga Edema (Ondo); Uchegbu Kyrian (Imo); Aisha Muhammed (North West); Shuaibu Zubairu (North East) and Abdullahi Bage (North Central).
Iyobosa Uwugiaren and Emameh Gabriel in Abuja